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Weekly Report: Zimababwe


Zimbabwe: Assault and sexual
violence by militia

Latest Press Releases

AI Index: AFR 46/032/2002

Publish date: 05/04/2002

State-sponsored militia are continuing to carry out assaults
and acts

of sexual violence in reprisals against the opposition. Militias are also

controlling the distribution of food supplies in rural areas and it is

feared that this is systematically being used as a tool of repression

against opposition supporters.

"We are alarmed at reports that reprisal attacks
and abductions by

militia members are continuing in rural communities of Zimbabwe

suspected of voting for the opposition in the recent presidential

elections," Amnesty International said.

Using the published lists of names and addresses of those
who acted

as polling agents for the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC),

militia have attacked, abducted and destroyed the homes of these

middle-ranking opposition officials. In the rural area outside Gokwe,

for example, six homes of polling agents were burnt down. During

this past weekend a crowd of 50 militia members in the Bulawayo

suburb of Sizinda beat residents in two homes, robbed them of

money and destroyed valuables such as televisions and refrigerators.

When the outraged community tried to evict the militia from their

town hall, police tear-gassed them and arrested 42 people on charges

of trying to destroy the building.

"Eyewitnesses report that police officers told the
residents that the

militia were ‘untouchables’ and could not be removed nor

restrained," Amnesty International said. "The Zimbabwe government

has an absolute obligation, in accordance with international human

rights standards, to protect all its citizens from human rights

violations. Instead, the government’s condoning of militia violence

serves a political purpose: destroying an opposition party and taking

revenge on Zimbabweans who may still support the MDC."

Amnesty International is particularly concerned at mounting

of rape and sexual torture by the militia, continuing the pattern seen

in the run up to the 9 – 11 March 2002 presidential elections. During

its recent visit to Zimbabwe in March, Amnesty International

interviewed women in the towns of Kwekwe and Chinhoyi who

described rape and sexual abuse by militia members.

In January 2002, a respected Zimbabwean human rights

organization, the Amani Trust, had reported a new pattern of sexual

violence after interviewing victims who were forced to rape other

victims — at the instigation of the militia — in Mashonaland Central

Province. By the end of March 2002, the Amani Trust documented

further sexual assaults by militia, including incidents in which men

were forced by militia to commit sexual assault on one another. In

the town of Gokwe in Midlands province, the Amani Trust reported

that militia members and army soldiers continued to rape women and

teenage girls or forced them to perform humiliating sexual acts in

public, in revenge for the "crime" of living in a community

to support the opposition.

Another human rights organization, the Zimbabwe Women

Association, estimates that some 1,000 women are being held in

militia camps. In Masvingo, newspaper accounts describe farm

workers being beaten and forced to watch their wives raped by

militia because they may have voted for the opposition.

Amnesty International estimates that dozens — perhaps
scores of

people — are being held in illegal detention in some 50 militia camps

around the country. While many are held for "re-education",

are beaten and reportedly tortured. In the recent case of Ephraim

and Faith Tapa, a High Court judge successfully forced the police to

rescue the couple who had been abducted in Marondera and held at

a militia camp for some 22 days. The High Court Judge issued the

court order on 8 March 2002 forcing Police Commissioner Augustine

Chihuri to intervene, but deliberately struck out of the draft order

submitted by Tapa’s lawyers the directive to police to rescue others

who were held in illegal detention by the militia.

The Zimbabwe authorities’ political retribution carried
out by the

militia may become even more widely felt as the risk of famine in

Zimbabwe deepens. The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation’s

(FAO) Global and Early Warning System predicted at the end of

2001 that more than 700,000 people were at risk of food shortages,

with another 250,000 urban dwellers already experiencing food


Amnesty International has already received evidence that

PF officials in charge of distributing food supplies in many rural

areas are discriminating against those believed to be supporters of the

MDC. ZANU – PF affiliated youth militia stationed outside long

queues to buy grain are reported to be targeting MDC supporters for

assaults and intimidation to prevent them from getting food. In the

rural town of Mvurwi, for example, a man standing in line to buy

maize meal was beaten after being recognized as an opposition

activist by militia members who beat him.

Human rights lawyer Innocent Gonese confirmed this week
that war

veteran-led militia control the Grain Marketing Board food

distribution facilities in the Matabeleland North Province. They

demand a ZANU-PF party card before allowing people to buy maize

meal. He confirmed similar acts of discrimination in the towns of

Masvingo and Gutu. Amnesty International has also received

individual reports confirming militia control of food distribution from

Kwekwe, Norton, Plumtree, Beitbridge,Victoria Falls, Chipinge,

Kariba and Tsholotsho, north of Bulawayo.


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